The more things change… the more they stay the same.. at least in Ohio politics. 2020 continues to be a year unlike any anyone has experienced including a Presidential Election that will not seem to end and how Americans voted disrupted due to the COVID 19 pandemic. However, an element of normalcy remained in Ohio with Republicans adding to their supermajorities.
On the election front, Ohio House Republicans racked up gains even in the face of the indictment of the former Republican Ohio House Speaker. In the wake of a continuing scandal involving the former Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder and uncertainty related to the continuing COVID-19 outbreak, Speaker Bob Cupp’s (R-Lima) expanded their majority of sixty-one of ninety-nine seats to sixty-four. The majority party was able to defend all but one of their currently held seats, while also picking up an additional four seats, providing a net increase to their majority of three seats. The Republican gains in the Ohio House are nothing short of extraordinary. Speaker Cupp took over a House Republican political operation left in shambles by the Householder indictment and in short order Cupp pushed forward with an aggressive fundraising and campaign effort that produced gains against better funded Democrats that few expected. Speaker Cupp lead successful campaigns in suburban districts running against the anti Trump tide but also gained seats in rural and union friendly districts shift suddenly Republican for the third election in a row. Any questions about Speaker Cupp being just a policy-wonk were put to rest.
In the Ohio Senate, the Republican majority strengthened from their current 24-9 seat majority to a potential 25-8 majority once the official results are certified. One of the current majority seats held by Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) was too-close-to-call on election night with Senator Kunze leading her opponent by 41 votes. After the remaining votes were tallied the race is now moving to a mandatory recount with Senator Kunze now leading by a 116-vote difference falling within the .50% of the total vote and is expected to retain the seat when the election is officially certified. The election also saw the defeat of moderate Democrat Sean O’Brien in Eastern Ohio. While Donald Trump’s reach is not going to be enough for him to remain in the White House, Trump’s strong anti-free trade message has transformed former Democratic strongholds like Eastern Ohio into a blanket of Red State Republican voters making Ohio very difficult for Democrats to win.
Republicans did not have a clean sweep in the 2020 Ohio General Election. Justice Judy French loss to current 10th District Court of Appeals Judge and former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. Brunner, the endorsed Democrat, enjoyed a 10 point win while Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy won by a similar margin. The French lost has many in the business community scratching their heads and expressing concern that the Ohio Supreme Court is down to a 4-3 majority.
2022 is just around the corner. Not only will the General Assembly seats be back in play but Governor DeWine, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber, Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague as well as finding a replacement for long serving Republican Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Conner.